Hello, fellow NET Alumni!
My name is Audrey (Reider) Donaldson, and I served on the Home Team in 2000 – 2001, just over 20 YEARS AGO. My three biggest claims to fame are that our team was that last team that Dave Rinaldi supervised (along with Team 2 of my year), I “broke in” Chris Hirniak as his first team leader, and the quite famous Marie (Cranley) Flanigan and David Calavitta were also on my team – look them all up on social media if you don’t know who they are! I have been married to my husband Michael for 19 years, and we have four children – Brian (17), John Paul (16), Clare (14), and Nicholas (9). We’re very busy, but very blessed!
When I was asked to write about my experience on NET and how it still applies to my life today I felt incredibly honored. Maybe because I work for the Church, or maybe it’s because NET had an impact on my life from such an early age, but I feel like hardly a day goes by when something doesn’t spark a memory or a story, or even a lesson learned from my one short year with NET. So that’s what I decided to write about: 5 simple ways my year on NET still impacts me and my family today.
1) You can’t pray at all times unless you pray at specific times.
This little nugget of wisdom is straight from the Catechism. I heard it for the first time during one of the early talks on prayer while at Camp Wapo. While I might have heard it before it definitely hit home for me and made perfect sense. I’ve always been a “pray throughout the day” kind of person, but since that talk I’ve really taken this statement to heart. I need to spend daily time with God if I truly want to be in relationship with Him throughout my life. This talk was the beginning of a deepened relationship with Christ, and I couldn’t be more grateful to NET for instilling in me a desire to spend time with the Lord each day. I have tried to instill this in my kids as well and hope that they will also learn the value of taking time each day to pray.
2) Don’t just say you’re sorry, but ask for forgiveness as well.
How many of you remember this being emphasized throughout training, and put into practice during your year (sometimes better than other times, am I right)? For me, learning this during my year was something that I implemented into my relationships when I returned home, and have tried to use it in my relationships with my husband and children. Sometimes it definitely DOESN’T happen, and even as I write this I’m convicted to develop the concept of forgiveness even more in my family life. It can be a very humbling experience, but has proved to be a very useful tool in our family relationships.
3) Sisterhood and brotherhood are so important!
I loved the sisterhood that I found on my team, and I’m very thankful for social media keeping us connected even though we’re all miles apart. We had a Zoom reunion last year, as many teams did, and it was SO good to have us all together! Even if I don’t talk to my “sisters” as much as I would want to now, the idea of sisterhood and brotherhood has stuck with me through the years. Whatever stage of life I have been in since NET, I have sought out my “sisters”– those that I can dive deep with and cultivate relationships that I find are necessary for my continual growth and development. I love my husband, and he is my partner completely in my walk with Christ, but I know that I also need my sisters- and he needs his brothers- to also help along the way. It has led me to help my kids to seek out those deep relationships with their peers. My oldest sons especially have found a deep brotherhood with friends of ours, and it’s so awesome to witness the growth and development.
4) God will bless you – no matter what path you take.
Towards the end of my year, we were given a recorded talk to listen to by the amazing Laurie Krupp, and she basically started leading us to looking at life past NET. My team was in a house (which in my memory was more like a cabin) and I have a vague memory of a raccoon coming and stealing dog food on the porch while we were listening…gotta love those faded NET memories – I’m probably totally wrong about all of that! Anyway, much like the memory of the supposed raccoon, much of that talk faded from my memory EXCEPT the one portion where Laurie spoke about how God wants to bless you – no matter which path you take. So often we look at which decision is “right” or “wrong”, but the idea that neither path (or paths) is right or wrong.
God will be with us no matter what we choose. At that time it was especially poignant for me because I had just told NET that I was going to decline a position as a supervisor, and instead go home to California – a decision that was not easily made and that I questioned at the time. Little did I know that shortly after I made that decision, the man that I eventually married discerned that monastic life was not for him, and that he would be home when I came home. Twenty years of hindsight tells me that God definitely blessed that difficult decision, but it was certainly comforting to know that He would have blessed ANY decision that I made – and that He continues to do so today. This bit of wisdom has been helpful as my oldest son is discerning his future as he prepares to graduate from high school. God loves us and wants the best for us, and if we are seeking Him out in all things He will continue to bless us in every decision.
5) I’m still an awesome packer!
Twenty years later I can safely say that NET taught me how to organize, re-organize, and organize again whenever I travel – and that’s a GREAT skill to have! One memorable family trip was for a destination wedding in Montana, followed by an epic trip to Yellowstone. I put my NET packing skills to work and packed fancy clothes, camping clothes, hiking boots, and oh so many toiletries, into our minivan. My “team” left California (with a van prayer, of course!), and traveled through Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. I guess being on the Home Team made me that much more excited to experience van life and travel for weeks on end with the people that mean the most to me in the world!
I will always be thankful to NET for so many experiences. Hopefully this jogged your memory a bit. What are your 5 takeaways? Share in the comments! Many blessings to all of you!
Audrey (Reider) Donaldson
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